The first generation of the Honda City was launched in India nearly 20 years ago. Back then, it was a very performance-oriented sedan, which is still revered by petrolheads to this day. Since then, to keep up with the demand of the masses, the Japanese automaker has kept on upgrading the City to be more focused on fuel efficiency and caterers to a more mature and grown-up audience. In its latest avatar, the City claims to be the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the Indian market by offering a claimed mileage of 26.5 km/l with its new hybrid powertrain. Something that the first generation couldn’t even fathom doing!
Now it is no lie that automakers are prone to fluff their numbers in their brochures to attract customers, hell! Even a brand such as Lamborghini did that at one time. That is precisely why we at BBC TopGear Magazine India flew into Bangalore to get hands-on with the all-new 2022 Honda City e:HEV and test out its claimed numbers. In my review, I will focus on how beneficial the hybrid system is for the City and how much cost savings it offers when fuel prices are skyrocketing. Because I presume that, just like me, you too shed a tear when it’s time to fuel up your vehicle.
Design of the Honda City e:HEV
Look at the City Hybrid from afar, and you’d be left scratching your head trying to figure out which variant of the City you are looking at. So let me just make your life a whole lot easier! There are some very subtle changes, such as the hexagonal-shaped vent under the front grille, a new claw type foglight plastic housing and a new(ish) dual-tone black diamond-cut 16-inch alloy wheel.
Next, move to the rear of the City Hybrid, where you are bound to spot a few differences. Things such as a trunk lip spoiler and rear bumper diffuser finished in fake carbon fibre do help it differentiate from the other variants. But if that’s not all, you have a e:HEV chrome badge on the trunk that proudly helps showcase that this is the City Hybrid and not its ICE powered sibling. While everything is good about the City Hybrid, the one thing worth pointing out is the boot space. It has reduced from its earlier capacity of 506 litres to just 306 litres. That is because of the battery pack placement, which now sits underneath the rear seats of the City Hybrid.
While I was still able to talk about some differences outside the City Hybrid. I will have an even harder time pointing out the changes on the inside. What is new is the electronic handbrake, a vent on the right side of the rear seat for the batteries and a B mode on the shifter for the regenerative braking. Otherwise, as this is the top-of-the-line ZX trim, all the features such as the 7.9-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the 7-inch TFT driver’s display, dual-tone interiors, automatic climate control, and other comfort features all come as standard.
Powertrain of the Honda City e:HEV
Under the skin is where things start to take a turn for good! The City Hybrid’s 1.5-litre detuned Atkinson cycle produces around 98bhp while the electric motor produces around 109bhp. Now primarily, while driving, the power is sent to the front wheels by the electric motors. The petrol motor simply acts like a generator that charges up the battery pack. The 1.5-litre petrol motor only assists the electric motor and sends power to the wheels when you are above 80 km/h. That is when there is a single ratio gearbox that sends the combined power from the petrol motor and the electric motor to the front wheels to utilize peak performance. In layman’s terms, this engine doesn’t really have a conventional gearbox. Instead, the electric motor offers propulsion to the wheels most of the time.
What that translates to is a seamless power delivery no matter what speed you are in, and also, thanks to a combined torque figure of 253Nm available on offer, the City Hybrid really pulls away effortlessly. The engine response feels really torquey but isn’t as g-force inducing and neck-breaking as regular EVs feel. Sensing how most of the customers would use the vehicle, this engine response would suit most of our needs. When you are in the city and cruising at city speeds, the car runs purely on electric power alone, which is determined by an EV sign lighting up on the dashboard. Increase your throttle input slightly more, and you feel the engine kick in and send power to the friction motor, which then powers the wheels. Trust me, while all this might sound very complicated to read, it feels exceptionally seamless while driving, and you get used to it quickly.
Unlike a conventional EV, thanks to an onboard petrol power plant, the battery never depletes and entirely runs out, which is a cause of anxiety for most EV owners. As soon as the onboard computers detect that the battery is depleted beyond a certain point, it uses the 1.5-litre motor to send charge to the battery. That’s not all, the City Hybrid also has regenerative braking, which uses the friction caused by the brakes and converts it into electricity to further charge the battery. Furthermore, the City Hybrid comes with three levels of regenerative braking, which can, in theory, mean that while driving in stop-start traffic, you can use just one pedal to drive as the regen braking would slow the vehicle down to a halt while also charging your battery. Speaking of brakes, owing to the City Hybrid having nearly 100Nm more than its petrol variant, Honda has fitted the City Hybrid with disk brakes on all four corners.
Driving Dynamics of the Honda City e:HEV
I am happy to say that things look pretty good from this aspect! While the City Hybrid is nearly 110 kilograms heavier than the petrol variant, that doesn’t translate to it feeling bulkier or heavier to drive. The steering dynamics and feel are pretty sharp and induce confidence while driving fast or taking a corner hard. Owing to its electric motor, the acceleration does feel relatively swift and takes off with ease! Speaking of which, Honda claims that the City Hybrid can do the 0 to 100 km/h stint in just 10 seconds which is 0.4 seconds quicker than the petrol variant. The vehicle’s suspension is retuned to carry the additional weight of the battery pack it holds under the seat. However, it still feels quite planted and stable while driving on open roads. I must also commend that the ground clearance remains the same as the standard vehicle, and that is because the batteries sit underneath the rear seat and beneath the bottom of the car.
While Honda hasn’t loaded the City Hybrid with creature comfort features such as a wireless charger, ventilated seats and more. The one place they have really tried to hit the mark is in the safety department. Since this car is only available in the ‘ZX’ variant, you get all the standard safety tech such as 6-airbags, ABS, EBD, Hill-start assist and TPMS, all as standard. But that isn’t it; Honda has gone a step further and introduced a camera-based driver safety net which they call ‘Honda Sensing’. To put it simply, this camera assisted system operates functions such as collision mitigation braking system. This system slows down your vehicle when it detects a stationary object in front of your car and automatically applies the brakes to prevent an impending collision.
Moreover, this system also operates the Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control system. These systems reduce the driver’s fatigue while driving long distances by controlling the vehicle’s essential aspects and allowing the driver to ease their burden while out on the open roads. I must point out that although these systems are there to aid drivers, you cannot solely rely on these systems and can be utterly dependent on them to drive you around. Please be cautious of that out on the open road.
After spending an entire day, I am really finding it hard to find actual faults with the City e:HEV. Although I must admit that quite a large chunk of the audience will appreciate the claimed 26.5 km/l fuel figures, you might feel disheartened by the lack of new features the City Hybrid offers over the petrol and diesel variants. Yes, I must admit that the ‘Honda Sensing’ feature is certainly something that deserves some recognition and Honda should get some brownie points for being the only manufacturer in this mid-size sedan segment to offer this feature. But that could come at a cost.
Speaking of cost, Honda hasn’t unveiled the pricing of the City e:HEV yet, and that is due to happen sometime in May. However, we expect the prices to range somewhere between 19-21 lakh (ex-showroom). But then again, in the current times where the fuel prices are skyrocketing, and it is bound to only increase with time, having a vehicle which can offer so much fuel economy feels like a sight for your sore wallet. Moreover, the mid-size SUV segment, which was getting redundant due to the ever-increasing demand for the mid-size SUVs, is just getting heated up with back to back launches of vehicles such as the Skoda Slavia and Volkswagen Virtus. But can the City Hybrid claim the throne of the mid-size sedan? Hmm, I smell a comparison brewing!!
Engine – 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle in-line 4-cylinder i-VTEC DOHC
Power – 98bhp (Petrol) 109bhp (Electric)
Torque – 253Nm (Combined Torque)
Gearbox – single-speed e-CVT gearbox
0-100 km/h – 10 seconds
Price – Rs 19 to 21 lakh (ex-showroom) (Estimated)